What Is Google Glass Really About?

There has been a lot of buzz about Google Glass lately.  What’s with this dorky, sci-fi looking gadget that only a geek could love?  Glass is something you wear on your head like a pair of glasses.  It’s a computer that projects an image right in front of your eye and you control it with voice commands.

Along with the new wrist watch computers, Google Glass is part of the latest trend of wearable computing devices.  No, a mobile phone in your pocket just isn’t close enough to you!  SIDE NOTE: this trend won’t stop until we can embed computing devices *in* you (i.e. Matrix style) and we eventually turn cyborg… oops, I wasn’t suppose to tell everyone about the final chapter yet.  Is it too late to flash a ‘Spoiler Alert!’ warning?

I give Google credit, they are really starting to get the “slow release” marketing tactic in order to generate buzz.  First they started talking about it at their conferences and generating interest with impressive sky jumping demos, now industry celebs are getting beta versions in order to validate the concept and generate gadget envy, and they are discussing plans to release a year from now in what is sure to be a “we can’t keep up with the demand” distribution timed just before Christmas where desperate rich people will bid up the device to infinity on Ebay so their kid can have one too.  All this keeps the gadget in the headlines and most importantly makes our feeble human brains forget just how stupid this will look sitting on your head!

History Lesson

Do you remember a long, long time ago when you were driving in your car but had to pull over in order to answer questions like “it’s 7 o’clock, and I have time to catch a movie, when are the next showtimes?” or “Crap, I’m hungry but South Austin is really weird, what can I eat around here?”

Yes, mobile phones changed all that.  We can now answer all these questions while driving, ahem riding, in the car and the world is just so much more productive now!  For this productivity increase we are willing to pay thousands of dollars annually for that ubiquitous internet connection just so siri can tell us “No, there aren’t any disco’s near you” when you are in need of a taco.

Diminishing Returns

Wearable computers offer this same amazing productivity increase.  Mobile phones no longer require us to stop our car to answer a question on the go while wearable computers will allow us to get answers without reaching into our pockets.  Go ahead, get up off the floor, I’ll wait.

For the most part I don’t think the difference between pulling out your phone, checking your wrist, or just having the relevant information projected right onto your retina is going to make that much difference to justify the idea that you could “never live a day without them”.  Dork.

Top 3 Game Changing Use Cases

Despite poking fun at it, I do think this could be a game changer in some scenarios.  Actually, I’m really excited about the promise of wearable computers, especially the one’s like Glass which are in your line of sight.

  1. Facial recognition.  The glasses have a forward facing camera (because a rear facing camera would produce some awful selfies, sorry duck-face girls this device won’t help you there) and that means they can see whatever I see.  With facial recognition and an internet connection glass could instantly poll my social graph and present me a detailed interaction history for the person approaching me with their hand out whose first name escapes me.  I would love to see the LinkedIn profile of everyone sitting at the conference table in a meeting while on a customer site.  If Glass could connect us, ala Terminator style, with the people around us in a seamless way I think it would be huge.
  2. Second Screen at live sporting events.  I’m a season ticket holder for UT Football.  I love the college atmosphere.  I’ve noticed in recent years that some people will turn down tickets to the game with me because their TV experience is so good with all the replays, stats, and commentary.  Glass could provide the TV experience at the live game in a fairly unobtrusive way so you get the atmosphere and second screen.  Winship.
  3. Places recognition.  Last, imagine walking down a busy urban street lined with shops and eateries.  Glass could overlay what I’m seeing on the street with Yelp summaries of everything I’m seeing.  In fact, it could show me that I’m looking at a bunch of 3.5 star restaurants but if I’m willing to turn my head to my right I will see that 4.5 star restaurant where I’d be much better off.

The only question is whether these things become socially acceptable or not.  I think the use cases will be there once we get the software that exploits what we have.  However I know we are a long ways from that day.  I’m a product manager for an enterprise mobile startup and I’ve been trying to tell the world that we are just scratching the surface on leveraging the capabilities of the modern mobile phone and that’s been here 6 years already (a lifetime in technology these days).  How many years before the software catches up with the capabilities of Glass?

Google Glass?  Two thumbs up in about 5 years.  Great technology but let the early adopters take the hit to their social status before it becomes acceptable to wear in public.

Robert Scoble Google Glass